Forum Quinnipiac take note: Grass fields are safest
Quinnipiac University had a hearing recently before the Hamden Wetlands Commission asking for permission to install rubber infill in its synthetic turf field — even though it was denied this a few years ago.
Quinnipiac University’s synthetic turf field is presently made not with rubber infill, but with cork. Industry claims this type of infill is an environmentally friendly alternative for synthetic turf fields — however, the cork has now frozen, making their synthetic field unplayable.
Another very similar infill, one made with cork and coconut husks, is called “Geofill,” manufactured by Shaw Sport Turf.
The problems that exist with this similar product — that is, made of cork and coconut husks — are explained in a publication by the industry itself. Excerpts follow from that publication and they report that the product retains moisture. Well, if both these infills retain moisture, then they will naturally freeze when the temperature goes below 32 degrees.
The product can freeze in the winter and then it gets hard.
“The system typically contains moisture, so without any type of treatment it stands to reason that some freeze/thaw will take place. We recommend a pre-winter treatment with a salt solution of 0.2 lbs. salt/square foot mixed into the Geofill infill system. While this will decrease the freezing potential, it will become harder during freezing weather.”
After heavy rains the product may become saturated.
“During heavy rains the product may become saturated, but the drainage and playability should not be affected.”
Weeds can grow in the fields and pesticides will be needed.
“While this does not happen in most environments, some environments have led to weed growth. The system has been treated with a herbicide (that is naturally washed out of the system) to effectively to kill the weeds. A pre-emergent has also been used to further control weed growth in those areas.”
Now we understand why Quinnipiac University is vacuuming-up their cork infill. Their synthetic turf field gets wet, retains water, the field freezes, becomes slippery and is then unusable.
How are the synthetic turf fields and infills holding up under close scrutiny? Waste tire crumb rubber infill has 11 carcinogens and 20 irritants, many of which are lung irritants. EPDM rubber infill contains toxic chemicals and according to the Material Data Safety Sheet is a “possible carcinogen.” And the International Agency for Research on Cancer evaluation is that Carbon black, which is contained in EPDM, is a possible carcinogen, and the dust from carbon black is a lung irritant.
EPDM rubber has never been proven safe for children and students to play on. This product was not designed to be put where students play. EPDM is used for roofing, hoses, cable joints, car hoses and vehicle sealants.
Now we learn that cork, and cork and coconut husks, freezes in the winter and causes synthetic turf fields to become too slippery to play on. We now also learn that the fields with these infills need toxic herbicides to keep weeds from growing in the fields, and that the systems need to be de-compacted on a yearly basis.
Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all synthetic turf fields that have come in contact with bodily fluids, such as blood or vomit, be disinfected to eliminate bacteria including MRSA.
Synthetic turf fields are in a continual need of having one toxin after another applied to them. Some synthetic turf fields need applications of flame retardants, some need antimicrobials, some need herbicides and some need all of them. The more we learn about the maintenance of synthetic turf fields, the more complicated these fields become.
Over 50 percent of professional football teams have now removed their synthetic turf fields and replaced them with Kentucky Blue Grass fields.
Environment and Human Health Inc. has maintained, and will continue to maintain, that grass is the best and safest surface for students and athletes to play on.
Nancy Alderman is president of Environment and Human Health Inc.